The colour orange rained down over all of Alberta, and therefore Calgary, on the night of Game 3. With polls closing half an hour after puck drop, Alberta created history, as the Calgary Flames nearly relived their own.
Only one orange team won, and despite attempts to call it a "sea of orange" in Anaheim, it was not the Ducks.
The Flames came out as if they were literally on fire, and it showed. (Remember, fire is good in this situation.) It took just over two minutes for Mason Raymond to centre the puck for Brandon Bollig and Bollig, streaking up the middle, tapped it in immediately to give Calgary a very quick 1-0 lead.
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The euphoria was short-lived, however, as the Flames' lack of depth, combined with the Ducks' overall superiority, reared its head. Ryan Getzlaf had no problems saucering a pass between Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell right to a wide open Patrick Maroon. His easy tap-in quickly tied the game at one.
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The Flames nearly took the lead back when Clayton Stoner took an interference call on playoff superstar Brandon Bollig, and David Schlemko just missed what would have been an easy tap-in feed from Joe Colborne.
Alas, the puck went just wide, and the powerplay... continued, actually, when Ryan Kesler held Jiri Hudler, then accused him of diving. That's cute, Ryan.
The brief five-on-three yielded nothing for the Flames, and their second powerplay opportunity was disastrous as not only did Andrew Cogliano streak in to the offensive zone, but drew a slashing call from Johnny Gaudreau. All special teams, however, ended up ultimately uneventful.
Even strength, however, did not. Getzlaf completely took out TJ Brodie, stripping him from the puck and initiating a cycle that ultimately led to Corey Perry scoring off his skate.
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The Flames looked good to start the period, but ultimately faded. They were outshot 8-5, but did out-corsi the Ducks 16-15.
This time, when Getzlaf took out Brodie, he was at least called for it. The Flames went off to a powerplay, and while Sam Bennett and Mikael Backlund nearly scored, the Flames' special teams continued to be futile.
Or did they? Matt Stajan was almost immediately sent off for tripping Hampus Lindholm, even though Frederik Andersen tripped him in the process. Turns out, it was one of Andersen's most valuable contributions of the night, while Lindholm's was just to come.
Lindholm wiped out at the blueline. With every Duck in the offensive zone, Colborne immediately picked it up, with Josh Jooris following behind to fend off any potential obstructing Ducks. Colborne is a guy who tends to do fairly well in shootout situations, and with a clear breakaway... Well...
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The Flames' first shot of the period tied the game, with Flames special teams starting to come through.
Not quite to their full extent just yet, though. Russell wasn't having the best night, and a turnover by him ultimately led to Matt Beleskey getting the lead back for the Ducks, 3-2.
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The Flames responded by having their top line nearly finally get on the board, but Sean Monahan was unable to pot Gaudreau's pass to him fivehole. Still, Calgary showed significantly more jump as the second came to a close. They were outshot 3-7, but only out-corsied 12-10.
The Flames' powerplay had yet to score all series, and that didn't change when Perry high sticked Brodie.
Or when Nate Thompson held Stajan.
The Flames, though, lesser size be damned, were all over the ice, and all over the Ducks, doing everything in their power to get the game back on track and not fall victim to a 3-0 series deficit. And that moment came when Bennett, playing in his 10th NHL game, scored the game tying goal by just barely slipping the puck over the line before Andersen's pad came to force it right back out.
Except... it was ruled a no goal on the ice, and the NHL, after reviewing, ultimately agreed, to the disagreement of literally everybody else watching. The play almost went unreviewed, driving that 2004-shaped dagger further into the hearts of Flames fans everywhere, before it was ultimately ruled inconclusive and therefore not a goal.
It felt exactly like 2004, that same level of soul crushing emptiness descending upon you. It was awful.
But the Flames have been improbably coming from behind all season long, and that was not about to change.
With just over two minutes to go, the game ended up going four-on-four, with Stajan off for interference on Andersen, and Simon Despres off for the roughing on him immediately after.
Naturally, the Flames immediately pulled Karri Ramo to make it five-on-four.
And not even a minute later, Sami Vatanen cleared the puck over the glass, and Gaudreau jumped with the most excitement.
The Ducks called their timeout. Ramo remained pulled, and the Flames were operating five-on-three, but the Ducks had the threat of no icing.
Calgary won the faceoff, and the Flames were careful at controlling the puck, but ultimately, play stopped on an Andersen save. That's when Bob Hartley called his timeout.
The Ducks won the ensuing faceoff and got it out of the zone, but a Flames stick prevented the puck from going in the empty net.
Russell picked the puck up from behind the net and carried it back up and through the neutral zone.
He dished it off to Gaudreau, who carried it into the offensive zone.
With fewer than 20 seconds to go, and Gaudreau knowing he was running out of time, he shot the puck.
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Welcome to playoff overtime, the most terrifying of all hockey situations. It wasn't an elimination game, but the possibility of going down 3-0 was very real, and this was against a team that had previously swept the Winnipeg Jets.
The Ducks controlled the puck early on, and Ramo was called upon to make some absolutely huge saves at the start of overtime. Fortunately, the Flames are pretty used to Finnish goalies performing well in the playoffs, and Ramo stood tall.
The Flames managed to bring the puck back up into the offensive zone, and as they did so, the Ducks drew a penalty. With Ramo pulled on the delayed call, Hartley sent Backlund out as the extra attacker, and that decision could not have been any better, as Backlund sniped it for his first ever playoff goal.
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Oh, and a win in the second round.
Shots were 21 apiece, and the Flames out-corsied the Ducks 57-45. It's a series.
Flame of the game
It's Mikael Backlund. It has to be Mikael Backlund. He's one of the heart and soul players for the Flames, and despite only one assist these playoffs, has been one of Calgary's best forwards the entire postseason. His first ever playoff goal couldn't have possibly come at a better time.
That's not all he did, though. He played nearly 25 minutes - 24:46 to be exact - the most out of every single forward involved in the game. He was a positive possession player at 54.17% ES CF, despite a team-low 30.00% offensive zone start ratio. And he did it all while playing primarily against the Ducks' top competition, and the only guys he really faltered against were Getzlaf and Vatanen.
He was beyond incredible, and there was nobody more worthy to win the game.
- The top line is not right. Monahan himself is not right. There has to be an injury there, and in that case, Backlund is this team's number one centre.
- Brodie remains the number one defenceman, but he, Wideman, and Russell all played over 27 minutes. Deryk Engelland, on the other hand, played only 10 seconds more than Schlemko, though Schlemko was the beneficiary of powerplay time.
- Wideman and Russell are looking a little rough out there. They're probably playing too much, but there really aren't many other options.
- In his return, Rafa Diaz played just over 10 minutes. He was excellent in sheltered minutes.
- The Flames might actually have better depth than the Ducks. With Diaz back, they have a capable bottom three defencemen, and a group that should be able to help take the load off of the overworked Russell and Wideman. Jooris looked outstanding, even if he was ultimately taken off the second line, in his minutes played. Markus Granlund and Bollig only played a little over six minutes each, but they were the farthest thing from liabilities in that time.
- Colborne tends to get used in the shootout a lot, and we all saw exactly why on that shorthanded break. You just knew that was going in.
- A lot of debate surrounding whether or not the Flames should burn a year of Bennett's ELC, and what's done is done, but damn, he nearly confirmed it as the right choice with what should have counted as the game-tying goal.
- Raymond was flying.
- Ramo didn't put up great numbers, but nothing was really on him, and he was beyond incredible when it really counted. The power of having two capable goalies: when Jonas Hiller faulted, in part through no major fault of his own, Ramo took it to an extra level.
- The Flames have been playing so long, you can see the hints of a playoff beard on Gaudreau!
... Drew Shore drew back into the lineup? He's a good player, and I'd probably trust him more than Granlund or Bollig out there. At this point, I'm willing to let the Bollig thing totally slide because what's going on is total madness, but Shore should probably be in the lineup.
... Diaz gets more minutes, and Engelland continues to play in a lesser role? Tyler Wotherspoon's day will come, but Diaz is such a big help for this team.
Game 4, and a chance to tie the series. With no election to take up the day or keep you preoccupied during the intermission, Friday, May 8 will allow the city to focus solely on the Flames, as they'll fight to make sure it's not their last home game.
They've definitely made it a fight. Puck drop will be at 7:30 p.m. MT.